Detective Knight: Rogue was directed by Edward Drake (Breach, Gasoline Alley), co-written by Drake and Corey Large (Apex, Cosmic Sin), and stars Beau Mirchoff (Awkward, Scary Movie 4), Bruce Willis (Wire Room, Acts of Violence), Trevor Gretzky (American Siege, 40-Love), Keeya King (Yellowjackets, Rush for Your Life), Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes, Joy), Michael Eklund (West of Hell, Nurse), Corey Large, and Lochlyn Munro (Margaux, Riverdale). It follows a group of masked criminals from California to New York on Halloween with a cop in pursuit with hopes of bringing them down.
The Plot: If this sounds a fair bit like a simplified version of Heat was put into a seasonal spirit, that’s because it’s essentially the case. Movies with a similar strain of this basic plot are common, but Detective Knight: Rogue is competently scripted, even if it lacks singularity for much of its length.
In the heat of an L.A. night, criminals Casey (Mirchoff), Mike (Gretzky), Nikki (King), and Mercer (Large) stick up an armoured money transport truck, taking off with over 100 grand. Cops Knight (Willis) and Fitzgerald (Munro) fail to stop them before the group makes their way to New York, and Fitzgerald gets hit in the shootout. It’s a familiar setup – a bit too familiar – but it does get Knight talking to fellow detective Sango (Jean-Louis) about the thieves’ connections, which in turn spurs the officers to go to New York.
Across the country, Casey brings a cut to crime boss Winna (Eklund), who offers a job that entails stealing a Wayne Gretzky collector’s card from an auction. It’s an unconventional object of desire which lends the movie some personality without severing its tie to reality. The scenes between the next heist are better executed but rather cliche verbal faceoffs between the cops and Winna and the criminals that effectively set up a hierarchy of power but in a jagged and exposition-heavy fashion.
It does eventually get Detective Knight: Rogue to another familiar act full of confrontations and desperate backpedalling, which is largely entertaining but loses points for having such a banal first third.
The Characters: While most of the players in Detective Knight: Rogue are constructed out of scrounged-up pieces of genre archetypes, there are a few that rise above mediocrity thanks to an extra ounce or two of backstory and/or interplay.
Knight is a cop with an attitude. You know the type; the kind of cop who uses a gun as a warrant when he’s absolutely certain that he has deducted the culprits of a particular crime, assuming the courts don’t do their job. What you don’t know is his history, which includes Winna as a CI when he was just a low-level crook, though even now the two have a tenuous understanding. Because Knight’s father was on the receiving end of a robbery gone wrong, the cop used his assets to work away from prying eyes, building a reputation for being ruthless. One which the movie has a bit of a tough time in portraying.
Casey isn’t necessarily likable, but Rogue does a good job of making him more than just a generic robber who’s solely out for cash (that role goes to Mike). A star athlete during college, he was on track to make it to the big leagues, but his decision to fudge some numbers surrounding his stats, unsportsmanlike conduct and a knee injury nipped his career before it could start.
With a girlfriend and a daughter to take care of, he has to make rent but has gotten a taste for his new occupation. Mercer is the only other criminal with some personality, but after taking things too far in the initial op, he gets ditched, leaving two blank slates to round out the cast.
Detective Knight: Rogue’s characters are inconsistently qualitatively, but that has slightly less of an effect if the cast can bear the weight. Willis is 50/50 (mulligan given, obviously) and Mirchoff and Eklund do well, but the supporting cast makes the supporting characters less memorable than the leads.
The Crime: Drake and Large’s script will draw a lot of comparisons between it and other notable crime and thriller films, but it does have its own merits when it isn’t pallidly echoing tropes reused and recycled more times than I can count.
Winna’s hires don’t do that great of a job at starting off, as the truck robbery contains just about every holdover known to man in a sequence that only lasts five minutes. The crew rolls up on the truck with guns drawn, threatening the drivers until one of them makes a move for their own weapon. After this problem is solved there’s the out-loud countdown until the cops arrive, which then leads to a flat shootout that fills the purpose of having Knight’s partner get taken out.
Gretzky’s rookie card proves a tough get, but not for lack of trying. Drake includes scenes of the characters utilizing a space organized just like the auction house that helps to downplay Casey’s overambition and Mike’s negligence. The thievery itself is well done, with said planning obviously unable to predict the number and attire of the undercover cops guarding the proceedings. Every audience member will correctly predict this hiccup, but probably not the level of severity it reaches, and won’t work out how the card slips through the hands of the police.
The film’s third act brings all of the characters into play, making decent use of Knight’s relationship with Winna to make the detective something of a wild card in the eyes of his police department and escapees. Drake and Large looked to be aiming for homage to westerns in the way they create and converge different factions on each other.
Not to say that it always works, as there are plenty of scenes surrounding the angry police chief, a double cross or two, and Knight lingering at a bar that resembles dozens of other movies, but Detective Knight: Rogue makes a more positive impression pertaining to its crime genre destination than it does negative.
The Technics: Drake hasn’t been the luckiest director to work in the business. Often working with productions whose scripts were pieced together from multiple screenplays, had a low budget, and rarely had more than two weeks to shoot the thing. With Detective Knight: Rogue, he gets tossed a bone.
Directorially, Detective Knight: Rogue shows a clearer picture of what the helmer can do. Stylistics are mixed, with some choices to show cheesy flashbacks and an out-of-place title card that clashes with better ones that show Knight’s state of mind, but there’s a spark rising up somewhere in there. His direction in the edit, which was done by Justin Williams (Hunter’s Moon, The Walk), is solid and full of interesting match cuts and transitions between scenes that are unremarkably lensed by Laffrey Witbrod (Girls After Dark, Game Day).
Raw production elements are still iffy, with locations that range from well-dressed and glossy to indeterminate junkyard hideout #358. It’s probably for this reason that the lighting can occasionally be a bit flat, and the lowish budget doesn’t help with the blending of CGI city extensions with real, inconsistently lit locations. Some of Detective Knight: Rogue’s audio can be a problem too, as a handful of scenes sound like they were recorded inside of a tin can, making ADR a logical choice that isn’t selected. This movie is at least the best produced and directed out of any of Drake’s collaborations with Willis in spite of the flaws it does have.
Detective Knight: Rogue isn’t a great crime film but after a groggy first act, it does give way to some cool crimes, decent characters, and a degree of novelty given the holiday it eventually uses when it’s done being cliche.
Lionsgate has released Detective Knight: Rogue in theatres and to VOD and Digital platforms today, October 21st. It will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on November 29th. And if you want more films like it while you wait for the sequel, FilmTagger has a few suggestions.